Madden NFL 20 Review – Playing It Safe With Dink and Dunk

Madden NFL 20 Review

Admittedly, I am torn when it comes to Madden NFL 20. On one hand, I’m enjoying it. The gameplay is fluid, passing feels great, the animations are impressive, and MUT is as addictive as ever. I am having a hard time putting down the controller. On the other hand, there is little in the way of true innovation this year. It feels and plays almost identical to Madden NFL 19. I’m left with this overwhelming feeling that the development team at EA Tiburon played it far too safe this year. Perhaps maybe we’ve just hit the hardware limitations with this generation of consoles. Maybe there is just no room to make any big enhancements. Either way, I feel like I’ve been to this dance before.

Full disclosure. I’ve reviewed nearly every Madden game over the past 13-years. I’ve got a decent handle on the amount of work Madden’s passionate development team puts into their beloved NFL game year in and year out. They care about their community and fans. And they listen… most of the time. There is no denying that. So, I understand it is all about refining an already rock-solid NFL experience. Yet typically, we see some significant innovations, in addition to the usual slate of gameplay tweaks, animation upgrades and adjustments. This year however, Madden NFL 20 is more an incremental upgrade. I’m confident the franchise is in the best shape it’s ever been but it appears we aren’t going to see any ground-breaking strides during this generation of consoles.

Tighten Up That Defense Son

When firing up Madden NFL 20, fans of the franchise will quickly learn the core gameplay experience remains firmly in place. In fact, passing and running is nearly identical to Madden NFL 19. Sure, you’ll notice some new animations, especially when it comes to running backs, but the core passing and running mechanics have not changed. On the defensive side of the ball, it is also more of the same. Granted, the developers need to tighten up the defense a little as man and zone coverage isn’t quite as effective as it was last year but control-wise, I picked up right where I left off.

Madden NFL 20

The “big” new feature this year is Superstar X-Factors. The idea behind this new feature is to showcase the NFL’s top stars. 50 Pro-Bowl caliber players are identified as X-Factor players with potentially more added throughout the season. NFL’ers like Patrick Maholmes, Bobby Wagner, and Aaron Donald can all dramatically impact the result of any game. Madden ratings don’t always capture some of those intangibles that these studs bring to the game. When these superstars get in a zone, it’s incredible to watch. As a result, Madden’s X-Factors attempts to encapsulate what makes these players so incredible and they do so with success.

Being a Seahawks fan, naturally, I purchased Bobby Wagner from the auction house in MUT and immediately inserted him into my lineup. After a couple of tackles, Bobby’s X-Factor was triggered and I noticed right away he was in on nearly every single tackle for the rest of the drive. He didn’t necessarily feel overpowered but rather for a period of time, he was a force on the field smashing players and swatting down passes. It was pretty cool. Likewise, when I used Rodgers in an exhibition game, he didn’t move any faster or throw any harder, but his passes were deadly accurate. Rodgers X-Factor played a large role during a few of those touchdown drives.

Madden NFL 20

I’ll give credit where credit is due, X-Factors is a solid addition. Madden NFL 20 does a nice job at capturing some of the magic we see on a weekly basis in the NFL. Sure, we have seen similar heat boosts in more arcadey sports games over the years, NBA Jam comes to mind, but X-Factors strikes the right balance by not being too ridiculous or underwhelming.

I could be in the minority but I am disappointed Madden’s story mode, Longshot, is gone. I enjoyed those bite-sized 6-hour cheesy stories. It was nice break from Madden’s regular modes and was a neat way of showing fans what goes on behind the scenes, albeit in a silly and entertaining way. Instead, Longshot has been replaced with a more traditional career mode called Face of the Franchise which has more emphasis on gameplay and your experiences with the player. Here you’ll create a college player and have the opportunity to select one of 10 available NCAA schools. After an unfortunate turn of events early our quarterback’s NCAA career, our hero has to fight some adversary in order make it into the NFL.

Where’s The Beef?

Face of the Franchise uses a “Scenario Engine” that generates different playable scenarios, events and challenges. So no two careers should play out the same way and there are multiple endings. It is nice to see the return of a traditional career mode and I did appreciate the story elements, but it did feel a little bare-bones compared to other EA Sports career modes we have seen in other sports franchises. And the story just lacked some of the personality Longshot had.

Madden NFL 20

MUT and Franchise modes once again return and received some enhancements here and there. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of these modes you’ll barely notice much change. MUT does, however, do a nice job launching you in and out of challenges quickly. That said, MUT remains as grindy as ever and getting that first Elite player will either cost you some real currency or some serious hours of gameplay. It’s annoying as all hell, but nothing new for the franchise. I still have a love-hate relationship with MUT, and that relationship is alive and well in Madden NF 20.

Another Year, Another Madden

EA Sports Madden franchise finds itself stuck in cruise control, or dare I say resting on its laurels. Let’s face it, we likely won’t see the franchise take any significant leaps forward until the next generation of consoles arrives. Instead, Madden fans are forced to play a game that largely feels and looks the same as it did the previous year. While X-Factors is a nice little addition and some of the games new animations, plays, and gameplay tweaks inch the series forward, the lack of any significant new additions hurts this years game. The Madden faithful can purchase Madden NFL 20 with confidence as they do every year. On its own, it’s the best and only NFL experience in town but I would not blame you at all for skipping out this year. Madden NFL 20 remains only marginally better than Madden 19.

***An Xbox One code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • X-Factors strikes right balance
  • Gameplay superfluid
  • MUT addictive and fun
  • NFL’s passing game accurately reflected
  • Authentic NFL experience



The Bad

  • Longshot gone
  • No major innovations
  • Feels far too familiar
  • No new halftime show